The Washington Nationals are feeling good about their recent play, thinking it’s is a sign of things to come in 2012.
The Nationals go for a sixth straight victory and a rare win over the Florida Marlins in the opener of a three-game series Friday night in the nation’s capital.
By winning five in a row, Washington (71-77) has gained sole possession of third place in the NL East.
It’s the latest in a season the Nationals have been in third since 2005, and they haven’t finished third or higher in the East since 2002, when they placed second as the Montreal Expos.
Washington completed a four-game road sweep of the Mets in emphatic fashion Thursday with a 10-1 rout.
“I think you’re seeing signs that we’re starting to learn how to win,” general manager Mike Rizzo said. “I think we’re seeing a little maturation of how to play on the road and how to prepare on the road.
“We feel that we’re going in the right direction. Our young players are getting opportunities and we’re progressing.”
Beating Florida (67-83) would be a further sign of progress, as Washington has dropped 11 of the last 12 home meetings in the series.
Desmond, who turns 26 Tuesday, is 11 for 22 over the last five games after collecting a career-high five hits with three RBIs Thursday. The shortstop has a .323 career average against the Marlins (67-83), and is batting .367 with two doubles and two triples in 10 meetings this year.
Ramos, who had three hits and three runs Thursday, is hitting .385 with six doubles in 11 games this month. However, the catcher is 0 for 23 with six strikeouts in his last six contests against the Marlins.
The left-hander was pulled with one out in the third inning of Saturday’s 9-3 loss to Houston after surrendering six runs - all in the third - and eight hits. He was clearly better five days earlier, yielding one run in 5 1-3 innings of a 7-2 win over Los Angeles.
Lannan is 0-3 with a 6.45 ERA in his last four starts against the Marlins. He allowed four runs in 5 2-3 innings to take a 5-2 home loss July 28 - part of a three-game sweep for Florida.
The last-place Marlins have dropped four straight, hitting .186 as a team and getting outscored 16-4 during the slide. They were swept in a doubleheader Thursday at Philadelphia, falling 3-1 in the opener and 2-1 in the nightcap.
“We keep getting one run a game,” manager Jack McKeon said. “We’ve got to up our quota a little bit.”
Probable Florida starter Javier Vazquez(notes) (10-11, 4.13) hasn’t needed much help from the offense while winning his last three outings, yielding one run and 12 hits over 20 innings while striking out 20.
The right-hander is seeking to win four in a row for the first time since Sept. 8-25, 2009, when he was pitching for Atlanta. The fourth victory of that streak was a 4-1 win at Washington against Lannan.
Vazquez turned in another gem Sunday, tossing six scoreless, three-hit innings while striking out seven in a 4-1 victory at Pittsburgh.
He was impressive in his most recent start in the nation’s capital July 27, allowing one run in seven innings of a 7-5 win.